3 steps for choosing the right home care agency

September 12th, 2017

By Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC Chief Clinical Quality Officer, BrightStar Care

A BrightStar Care nurse interviewing with a client familyMost families don’t think about in-home care for a loved one until a major event happens, such as a fall, a stroke, or some other serious injury or condition. In crisis mode, families may rush into a partnership with the first available care provider who may not fully meet their wants or needs.

Finding the best agency for your loved one takes time, careful research, and conversations about home care preferences. I’d love for BrightStar Care to be the best option for everyone, but the right choice looks different for each client.

Use the following three steps to narrow down your options and find the care partner that best meets your loved one’s needs.

Step 1: Do your research

It’s no surprise that the internet is the first place most people go when they need to find information on home health care.

But before you do that, you and your loved one should discuss what level of care is needed for them to remain living at home safely. Do they just need a little help with chores around the house or grocery shopping? Or do they need more advanced help, perhaps with showering or taking medications?

Once you have an idea of what type of care you are looking for, a search for key phrases can start you on the right path for finding a reputable, experienced in-home care agency. These could include:

  • Home care
  • Nursing care
  • Personal care
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia care
  • Senior transportation

A family caregiver searching on her computer for an in-home care agency. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as clicking the first link that appears in the search results. The first result on the list isn’t necessarily the best home care agency for your loved one. Use online search results to get some names and basic information, but then dig deeper to find the really valuable insights you’ll need.

Don’t skip over the award logos and seals of approval on companies’ websites as they can signify that the provider is doing something right and going above and beyond to provide quality service to their clients.

Related reading: What home care awards mean to you and your family

One online source for more information is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB’s website lists basic information about local businesses, as well as customer reviews and complaints. Of course, every client’s experience is different, but multiple or unresolved complaints about similar issues could be a red flag about an agency’s quality.

Step 2: Ask for recommendations

A personal recommendation goes a long way in finding a trusted home health care agency. Ask your extended family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations. They may know someone who has needed in-home care or may have arranged care for a loved one themselves.

I also recommend getting advice from professionals in the medical field about in-home care agencies. Ask your doctor, your loved one’s doctor, nurses, and others who work in this industry for recommendations. Do they refer patients to particular home care providers? If you’ve found a few agencies during your research, ask your medical professionals if they have an opinion about those agencies.

Don’t forget to consult your local community resources, such as your local Agency on Aging. These organizations help older adults and their families locate in-home care resources and other services close to home. The U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator can help you find resources in your community. Your local senior center also may have recommendations for care providers.

If your loved one has a particular medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or Parkinson’s disease, it may help to ask for recommendations from associations related to that condition. Examples of associations dedicated to specific illnesses include:

These associations might not make a specific referral, but they can provide information about where to start or questions to ask agencies about caring for someone with a specific illness.

Step 3: Interview your top choices

Once you’ve narrowed your options to the top three or four agencies, it’s time to start making phone calls, and setting-up in-person interviews. Just like a job interview, this gives you another opportunity to confirm which provider is the best choice before you hire them.

We’ve provide a list of potential interview questions to ask home care agencies in our Home Care Planning Guide. In addition, I recommend comparing agencies’ answers to questions like the following:

  • Are the caregivers new, or do they have experience before you hire them?
  • Do you perform background checks on your providers, check their credentials and test them for drugs?
  • How do you train caregivers and test their competency?
  • How will you make sure the caregiver is a good fit for my loved one?
  • Will my loved one have a consistent caregiver, or will there be different people in and out of the home?
  • Who will oversee the care my loved one receives from your caregivers?

Ideally, a trained professional should oversee the care provided in clients’ homes. At BrightStar Care, we have a registered nurse who provides that oversight at no additional charge. There are home care agencies out there with nice, friendly caregivers, but no trained professional from the agency ever follows up on the care provided. To me, that’s unacceptable.

Next, find out if the agency is licensed to provide in-home care in your state. Most states require in-home care providers to be licensed. Check with the state board or organization that licenses home care providers in your state for any complaints about the home health care agency, as well as results from inspections. This information is available online to the public or by calling the licensing organization.

Most reputable agencies will be able to provide client references if you ask. While I don’t think that’s essential, it can be a good source of additional information from someone who’s been in your shoes. If you reach out to a client reference, ask them about the positives and negatives involved in working with that agency. Have they been satisfied with the answers they’ve gotten from the agency when they’ve had questions? If they’ve had concerns, have these been resolved quickly?

Choosing the right home health care agency is a big decision. Take the time to investigate your options. Ask questions, and ask for more information if you don’t find what you’re looking for. Make sure the agency you choose will provide the level of care your loved one deserves.

We’re happy to speak with you about your options for in-home care. Call 866-618-7827, or contact us for more information.

BrightStar Care team, please format this as a tel link for click-to-call capability.

Topics: General Health